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Vaccine scientist invited to testify before Senate committee

WASHINGTON – A doctor skeptical of coronavirus vaccines and promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment will be the main witness at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and government affairs Tuesday, prompting criticism from Democrats who say Republicans should not give a platform to someone spreading conspiracy theories.

Dr Jane M. Orient is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that opposes government involvement in medicine and views federal immunization mandates as a violation of human rights. man.

“A threat to public health is the rationale for the mandatory vaccines policy. But what threat does it take to justify forcing people to accept government-imposed risks? Dr Orient wrote in a statement to the Senate last year, calling the vaccination warrants “a serious intrusion on individual freedom, autonomy and parental decisions.”

In a telephone interview on Sunday, Dr Orient, an internist who received her medical degree from Columbia University in New York, resisted being called an “anti-vaxxer” and said she would not receive no coronavirus vaccine because she had an autoimmune disease. . She added that she opposed government pressure to have all Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus, noting that the two vaccine candidates – one made by Pfizer and the other by Moderna – use a new scientific method. .

“It seems unwise to me to push people to take risks when you don’t know what the risks are,” Dr Orient said, adding, “People’s rights must be respected. Where is “my body, my choice” when it comes to this? “

His selection as a witness as federal health officials trying to promote a vaccine as a way to end a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 Americans has drawn heavy criticism from Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and the Minority Leader.

“At such a crucial time, giving conspiracy theorists a platform to spread myths and lies about Covid vaccines is downright dangerous and one of the last things Senate Republicans should be doing right now,” he said. Mr Schumer said in a statement Sunday.

But at least two members of the Republican House – Representative Andy Biggs from Arizona and Representative Jeff Duncan from South Carolina – appeared to accept Dr. Orient’s warnings against government mandates. They took to Twitter to express these views.

“Americans should have the freedom to take the COVID vaccine,” Mr. Duncan wrote the Saturday. “Americans should also have the freedom to refuse the vaccine.”

A spokesperson for the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, did not immediately return an email asking why Dr. Orient was invited to testify.

Federal officials are trying to get lawmakers involved in a campaign to encourage Americans to accept the new vaccines. An FDA advisory committee will meet on Thursday to review data on the safety and effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate. If the agency grants emergency clearance for the vaccine, deployment could begin soon after.

In a private briefing with a bipartisan group of senators last month, Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program, said that “it would help if senators were vaccinated, ”according to a person close to the call.

Dr Orient, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., Said on Sunday she would appear remotely at the early home treatment hearing for Covid-19. His group has been a strong advocate for home treatment, the apparent subject of the committee hearing.

The association has also sued the government in an attempt to force it to release hydroxychloroquine from the national stockpile for use as a Covid-19 treatment, although scientific evidence indicates the drug is ineffective against the coronavirus. The case is currently before a federal appeals court.

Dr. Orient said she intended to use her testimony to seek government guidance advising doctors about hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for patients with Covid-19, even though the Food and Drug Administration has revoked an emergency authorization allowing the drug to be distributed from the national stock. and warned that it could harm these patients.

Dr Orient’s organization urged people to be careful about the vaccine in blog posts with headlines such as “Should we be in line for a vaccine that is 90% effective?” In her interview, she raised particular concerns about vaccinations in young people “because the effect on fertility has not been determined”. There is no evidence that any of the main coronavirus vaccines affect fertility.

Dr Orient also targeted Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, asking, “Why is he dictating care to 340 million Americans?”